2015 Research Honours – the winners

It’s awards season again for the science sector, kicking off with the Research Honours Dinner tonight in Auckland and to be followed tomorrow by the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes and next week, the Association of Scientists’ Prizes.

Some big names among the winners tonight, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with on various science communication efforts. Congratulations to all winners on behalf of the Scibloggers.

The full announcement from the Royal Society of New Zealand:

A number of New Zealand’s most talented and successful researchers, communicators and leaders have been celebrated at the New Zealand Research Honours gala dinner, held in Auckland on Tuesday night.

Royal Society of New Zealand President, Professor Richard Bedford FRSNZ, says the event now in its twelfth year, celebrates intellectual achievements in the sciences, technology, social sciences and the humanities.

“One of our goals is to raise the profile of excellence in research, scholarship and intellectual leadership, and to profile some very successful role models in the research community.  We are keen to see greater recognition of the achievements of our researchers and scholars in a country that regularly celebrates achievements on the sports field and in other areas.

“We are delighted that the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes, which will be announced the day after our Research Honours dinner, provides another very important way of acknowledging the great achievements of some of New Zealand’s science scholars, teachers and students.”

The Royal Society of New Zealand awarded the Rutherford Medal, the Society’s premier New Zealand science award, to Distinguished Professor Ian Reid FRSNZ of the University of Auckland for his seminal contributions to the understanding and treatment of metabolic bone diseases such as osteoporosis and Paget’s disease. In addition to the medal, he received $100,000 from the Government, presented by Minister of Science and Innovation, the Honourable Steven Joyce.

Distinguished Professor Reid was also awarded the Liley Medal from the Health Research Council of New Zealand for his outstanding contribution to health and medical sciences in advancing the treatment of osteoporosis.

Professor Richard Bedford said that for Professor Reid to be selected for both medals from different organisations and with different criteria and judging panels is a testament to the outstanding quality of Professor Reid’s research.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand, which is celebrating its 25th year, awarded the Beaven Medal to Professor Edwin Mitchell from the University of Auckland for his work over 20 years on causes of sudden infant death syndrome and a subsequent preventive public health programme. It is estimated that Professor Mitchell’s research has saved over 3,000 babies lives in New Zealand to date.

The Royal Society of New Zealand awarded the Pickering Medal to Professor Margaret Hyland, University of Auckland, for her basic and applied research to reduce fluoride emissions from the aluminium industry, which provide environmental, economic and health benefits. Her guide to managing fluoride emissions, published in 2011, has allowed aluminium smelters worldwide to reduce emissions through operation and maintenance practices that are cost-effective to implement.

The Thomson Medal for science leadership has been awarded to Professor Richard Blaikie FRSNZ, University of Otago, for his involvement in establishing and supporting nanotechnology as a strong sub-discipline in New Zealand and for his leadership of the MacDiarmid Institute, a leading Centre of Research Excellence.

“Nanogirl” Dr Michelle Dickinson, University of Auckland, completes her sweep of New Zealand’s science communication awards by being awarded the Callaghan Medal, named after Sir Paul Callaghan. Dr Dickinson has been awarded the medal for her passion and dedication to communicating the value of science, particularly to young people. She was awarded both the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science Communication and the New Zealand Association of Scientists Science Communicators Award last year.

Professor Valery Feigin, Auckland University of Technology, has been awarded the MacDiarmid Medal for his research into understanding international stroke epidemiology and the development of a mobile app that can help people assess and mitigate their stroke risk.  The app is currently being translated into 20 languages. With almost 2 billion smartphone users in the world, and the number increasing every year, the potential of the app to reduce the burden of stroke and other diseases such as dementia, heart attack and diabetes across the globe is immense.

The Hector Medal was awarded to Dr Ian Brown FRSNZ, Callaghan Innovation, for his research into materials chemistry, including high-performance ceramics, glass and metallurgy, which have led to major technology platforms of strategic and commercial significance in New Zealand.

Professor Margaret Mutu, University of Auckland, has been awarded the Pou Aronui Award for her sustained contributions to indigenous rights and scholarship in New Zealand. Her research has focused on Māori rights, sovereignty and constitutional transformation, oral traditions and histories, Māori resource management and conservation practices and Māori and Polynesian linguistics.

Research into marine geology in New Zealand has earned Professor Lionel Carter FRSNZ, Victoria University of Wellington, the Hutton Medal. He has made fundamental investigations into sea-floor geological processes, such as ocean currents, and applied them widely to coastal erosion, seafloor cable integrity, New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone and using sediment cores to understand and model past and future ocean/climate interactions.

Emeritus Professor Atholl Anderson FRSNZ, of Ngai Tahu descent and formerly at Australian National University, has been awarded theHumanities Aronui Medal for his outstanding contributions to the humanities through research on pre-European migration and colonisation of oceanic islands. His research has challenged conventional thinking about ancient seafaring and the timing of Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean island colonisation with a particular focus on understanding Māori colonisation of Aotearoa.

The Mason Durie Medal has been awarded to Professor Keith Petrie FRSNZ, University of Auckland, for his research into patients’ perceptions of illness and how these perceptions impact on recovery and coping, co-developing the widely-used Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ) that measures how patients mentally represent their illness and associated symptoms. His research has brought the importance of patient perspectives more to the forefront in clinical medicine.

Associate Professor Ruth Fitzgerald, University of Otago, has been awarded the Te Rangi Hiroa Medal for her work as a medical anthropologist that has placed many health issues such as genetic testing, disabilities, reproductive decisions and oral health in a New Zealand social and political context.

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